Dangerous, Life-changing Love

Here’s my dilemma- just how much should you love on your foster dog? Galina is such a mischievous little love muffin, that we all can’t help but return her affection. And that seems dangerous for all parties involved.DSC_7901

OPH offers all kinds of training for fosters, which has been super helpful, but it occurs to me that I haven’t asked the question I should probably have asked most – just how much affection should you shower on your little charge?

When Galina arrived, she was nervous and shy and we coaxed her to accept our touch. Now it’s been two weeks and she demands it. She snuggles up to us on the couch, races to greet us when we enter a room, jumps up on anyone who fails to acknowledge her enthusiasm.

Should I have withheld some of my attention, kept my distance? That seems like the smart move. But Galina has blossomed under our affection. It’s given her confidence. She stands taller; she’s napping more, and chewing a little bit less. So maybe instead of being a dangerous thing, it was the most important element of our care for her. As important as the food and probiotics and coconut oil that has brought a shine to her coat. Continue reading Dangerous, Life-changing Love

Snow Day to Chew On


It’s been a big day! Not only has over a foot of snow fallen and Galina’s been doing plenty of swimming in it, but today, Galina got her first package! Of all days! Kudos to our mail lady – she’s the bomb.

Galina’s package came from a friend in Delaware, a dog named Peyton, who read about her penchant for chewing and her woefully unsupDSC_7853plied (and unsuspecting) foster family and sent her three mega chew toys.

These are heavy duty. She won’t be destroying these babies any time soon. In fact, as I listen to her this very moment working on the “Jr. Ring” I worry for her little teeth. She’s giving it her best shot.DSC_7862

The timing couldn’t have been better since this morning Galina finished off what another dog started and condemned our worn out ottoman to the curb.DSC_7842

I look at it as helpful. I’ve been wanting some new furniture, and she’s just moving the process along.

Gracie was equally excited to receive the toys and shared in the spoils, claiming the shark for her own.DSC_7875

Just in the past few days the two dogs have become bossum buddies. They wrestle for long periods of time and then sleep it off side by side. DSC_7836

A new transport of dogs is arriving tomorrow night and there’s a dog on the list I really, really want to foster, but I’m trying to apply some discipline to this endeavor. I do feel a little like a junkie, telling myself “I can handle it….just one more dog.” But we have only one crate and Galina has taught us a very important lesson about fostering – you truly don’t know what you’re in for. That said, I can’t risk my furniture or my relationship with my husband on another chewer.

Fostering is Bitter Sweet

Feeling very grateful this afternoon. Just made it home from Pittsburgh after having to extend what should have been a 2 day trip to a 3 ½ day trip thanks to weather.

I agonized about whether to stay safe in Pittsburgh or chance it through the mountains in a snowstorm to get home. I felt bad leaving my husband in charge of my menagerie. But good man that he is, he cleaned horse stalls, hauled buckets, took Galina for endless laps of the yard, mixed up her semi-complicated food concoctions, and vacuumed up all the exploded Beanie Babies. He said – stay there, I got this.

And still I hedged.

The kids would miss school I worried. Surprisingly, the kids were not at all concerned about missing a day of school.

Finally, I realized that the biggest reason I wanted to get home was Galina. I worried that she was confused by my lengthy absence. We’ve bonded quite well in the past week. I didn’t want to be yet another adult deserting her.

And I just plain missed her. It didn’t help that my husband was sending me adorable pictures via text all weekend while he was in charge of her….

Like her run-in with a roll of toilet paper….


And her sweet face and wagging tail blur as he talked to me on the phone…. Continue reading Fostering is Bitter Sweet

The Hap-Happiest Dog in the World (sing with me)

I’ve heard it said, “I aspire to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”

Well, I aspire to be the kind of person my beagle is.

Galina is happy, happy, happy every day, all the time 24/7.

Is it dinner? OH I’M SO HAPPY!

I can’t chew on the toothbrush? I’M SO HAPPY NOT TO DO THAT!

It’s time to go out? OMG I AM THE HAPPIEST DOG EVER!

I have to go in my crate now? I’M STILL HAPPY!

It’s time to wake up? I AM SO HAPPY!

You came back in the room after being gone one minute? I’M SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU!!!

She’s ear-flopping happy in every situation. I would love to have her enthusiasm and sunny attitude for just a few hours, let alone, full-on constant. Continue reading The Hap-Happiest Dog in the World (sing with me)

The Mysteries of a Shelter Dog

It’s official – we definitely have a toddler in the house. How can I tell? How about this?


Or this?


Or the fact that every trash can now resides upon a large piece of furniture, out of reach.

More evidence is that my husband and I regularly discuss poop and pee. I thought we’d finished having those conversations about nine years ago. Very proud to say our smart little girl is picking up on the we-pee-outside-not-inside rule very quickly. And she has yet to poop in the house – oh my, potty talk. And on my blog! Continue reading The Mysteries of a Shelter Dog

Galina’s First Weekend

DSC_7726Galina’s first weekend with us has been quite similar to having a visit from a busy toddler. She’s adorable and makes us speak in high pitched baby voices, but every time she’s left unattended (and sometimes when she’s not), she tends to put everything in her mouth. Sometimes that’s fine, maybe a little gross, but does no harm – like Ian’s dirty socks, a stuffed Rutters cow that belonged to no one, a paper with the high school course selection list, or a crouton that fell on the floor. Sometimes it’s not so fine – the remote control, the ottoman (yes!), the pill bottle of vitamins I set down for just a second, Grace’s favorite stuffy, or a wine cork (oh my God get that out of her mouth before she chokes).

We’re all learning to be more careful about what we leave lying around. I’m thinking this could play well for me in terms of allowing the natural consequences to deter unwanted behaviors. Maybe all mothers need a little busy beagle helper. Oh, you didn’t put your shoes in the cubby? I don’t know, maybe Galina has them? You took your snack out of the kitchen and left it on the couch? I wonder who would have eaten it? Couldn’t be troubled to hang up your favorite scarf? I might have an idea where it disappeared to….Of course, having watched her make off with papers, that old The-dog-ate-my-homework excuse could actually happen.

We’ve all begun to second guess what her true breeding is. The mischief-making does suggest beagle, but her diminished FullSizeRender (16)size, makes one wonder if there isn’t some smaller breed mixed in there, like Chihuahua or miniature dachshund. She is quite definitely a hound as she keeps her nose to the ground at all times and even has a little bitty baying bark. I see coonhound in there too, in her long legs and freckles.

She’s not giving any secrets away, but it’s evident she hasn’t always had good experiences with people. She cowers when we reach for her and freezes when we pet her, as if she’s afraid of our touch, yet she follows me from room to room, wagging her tail as I talk to her. Every sudden move or loud noise makes her jump. It took her nearly a day to finally relax and lay down. When she did it was in true hound dog fashion – sprawled out in the sun spotlight on the carpet. Continue reading Galina’s First Weekend

Galina Arrives!

At 9pm Nick collected me from my friend Brenda’s house, rescuing me from death by chocolate fondue, which was a near certainty until he appeared in Brenda’s kitchen, ate one chocolate covered strawberry and said, “It’s time.”

The car was loaded with a collar and leash, plus blankets and crib mattress pads to line Galina’s crate. (See? Isn’t it a good thing we didn’t get rid of those pads we haven’t needed for ten years?). We’d be getting a loaner crate from OPH at the pick up. Many of the dogs coming from these shelters aren’t housebroken, so the crate and crib pads would be necessary to save our carpet.

We headed down the road, only to turn back after I checked my e-mail enroute and discovered the transport truck would be delayed by accidents in North Carolina, and our pick up time was pushed back to 11pm. To kill time we watched an incredibly pointless sitcom called Two Broads. That was 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but at least I wasn’t eating myself into a chocolate coma.

10405550_10203621464161817_307358408892463996_nFinally, at 10 we took off for Pikesville. It was a balmy 5 degrees and I wondered what our little southern girl would make of that. Nick asked how we would find the OPH crowd, but when we pulled in the bowling alley parking lot it was immediately evident. There were a multitude of SUVs with motors running, next to a streetlamp where a small group of eskimos chatted, handing out dog crates, bags of bedding and food, even cookies, oblivious to the cold.

We received our crate and Nick put it together in the back of our SUV, lining it generously with the pads and warm blankets. And then we waited.

Nick stayed in the warm car, but I wandered over to chat with some of the experienced fosters. I learned that two pregnant mama dogs were in this shipment and many of the families were there to retrieve multiple dogs. Two of the other Pennsylvania foster mommies talked about their experience with state inspections. They’d both fostered over 25 dogs in one year which made them qualify as a kennel and required the inspections. I couldn’t imagine doing this 25 times, but then maybe that’s what they thought the first time, too.  I found it heartening that, to a person, everyone was friendly and kind. They were happy to be there and excited to meet their new foster dogs, even on a night as bitter cold as this. Continue reading Galina Arrives!

Why Foster?

We are setting off on a whole new animal adventure! We’ve become a foster home for dogs and puppies! These creatures are rescued from kill shelters in the south and ferried up north to find forever homes. For reasons I lack the knowledge or the resources to determine, animal shelters in rural parts of North Carolina and South Carolina can have up to a 90% kill rate. Perhaps people in those parts don’t believe in neutering their animals, or maybe there just aren’t enough homes to go around. At any rate, I’m not asking any questions, I’m simply offering a warm space and a happy family to shelter a dog until he finds his forever home.

Why foster, you ask? Good question. Here’s my short answer: Cause we want another dog, but we don’t want another dog.

Now here’s my long answer: I miss my dog. Lucy was the best dog a girl (or a family) could ever ask for. She graced our lives for 17 years. She ran with me, even training for a marathon, protecting me against aggressive dogs, friendly good ole boys, and even the occasional possum. She matched me stride for stride and never said no. (A feat I didn’t appreciate until I tried to run with our other dog, Gracie, who routinely yanked my arm, tripped me, and ran in terror, dragging me for the ride, from any dog or person who approached us!)lucy with soccer balls

Lucy had perfect manners, never peeing in the house, stealing food off the counter, or chasing the cats. Perhaps her only fault was killing the occasional chicken that wandered into her territory. But who could blame her, she was a fox hound after all.

Lucy put up with untold indignities, helping to raise our three kids. She moved with us twice, learning her invisible fence territory in hours and always respecting it. Continue reading Why Foster?